Massive Thurston County tax increase proposed for $300 million new courthouse scheme

Thurston County Commissioner and former Thurston County Sheriff Gary Edwards was the lone vote against the massive tax increase

Last week, at the Thurston County Commissioner meeting held at Rochester Middle School, the Thurston County Commissioners, by a vote of two to one approved a massive 39.5% property tax increase to be placed on the April, 2020 ballot for Thurston County (see Board Agenda here – Item 6a). In theory, this tax increase is for a new courthouse project that has been pushed for many years by Thurston County staff, Thurston County judges, and various other special interests. However, in the rush to build a new $300 million (or more) courthouse in the City of Olympia, a lot of questionable steps have been taken, special interests are lining up for their payoffs, and the taxpayers of Thurston County are put far last on the priority list. If you didn’t know this – don’t worry, you are not alone– neither does 64% of the rest of Thurston County according to a recent taxpayer funded survey (see summarized report here, supporting docs here and here).
Independant Commissioner John Hutching’s vote to support the major tax increase was a disappointment to most of his supporters

Independent Commissioner Gary Edwards made an impassioned and well-reasoned speech against the proposal last week. Unfortunately, he was the lone dissenting vote against staff’s proposal. Most observers predicted that recently elected Democrat Commissioner Tye “the High Tax Guy” Menser would support the tax increase because he supports most tax increases. Menser has repeatedly admitted he is a protégé of former Commissioners Sandra Romero and Valenzuela who were also part of the max tax crew in Thurston County. However, it was Independant Commissioner John Hutchings vote to support the tax proposal which disappointed most people, particularly those who voted him into office. It now seems likely that this vote (along with a few notable others) have doomed his reelection chances in 2020. His political career is now in clear jeopardy. Few supporters of Hutchings voted for him so he could ramp up their property taxes for more unnecessary building fiascos in Thurston County.
Tye “The High Tax Guy” Menser was narrowly elected Thurston County Commissioner in 2018, and has been pushing for bloating government at every opportunity – regardless of the cost
Democrat Thurston County Commissioner Tye Menser
A massive tax increase and no guarantees

Several disturbing details surrounding this recent proposed tax increase have come to light. These should concern all who live, pay taxes, and vote in Thurston County. For example:
Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez at Commissioner meeting April 30, 2019 in Rochester, Washington

Normally, capital projects like buildings and new facilities are financed through a tax mechanism called “Revenue Backed Bonds.” Read more about these funding mechanisms in state law at RCW 39.46.150 & RCW 39.46.160. These are a predictable method of ensuring that the funding exists for the life of the bonded debt, and it dedicates the funds so that they can’t be diverted to other uses. However, under Washington State’s constitution, this type of debt requires a 60% voter approval. This is due to the fact that future generations are burdened by this decision to increase debt and this higher threshold was chosen to ensure that the projects being proposed are widely supported by the community. Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez admitted this would be the normal path to financing a massive building project like this, but staff had determined that 60% of the voters of Thurston County would never support this size of a tax increase. Therefore, staff wanted to push a financing method without this risky 60% voter approval hurdle. Instead, staff wanted to push “General Obligation Bonds” which only have a 50% voter approval threshold (See RCW 84 for state law on property taxes)

Secondly, supporters of this proposed new courthouse admitted, repeatedly during the April 23, 2019 public hearing, that the vote for the proposed tax increase should be held on any special election date EXCEPT during the November 5, 2019 general election date so that fewer voters would participate. Supporters of the tax were demanding this explicitly because they admitted the majority of voters in Thurston County probably wouldn’t support this tax increase. These comments were largely directed at this author’s earlier comments at the same hearing that if the Commissioners were going to put this tax increase on the ballot they should give the largest number of voters the chance to vote on it in November. Supporters of this tax increase are terrified that a large number of voters would vote to reject this proposal. I can’t blame tax supporters for wanting to hide from the voters because they probably would lose at the ballot box if the voters of Thurston County realize what this boondoggle really is. (From a policy standpoint, this is why I’ve always recommended eliminating the special election dates in Washington state law, and instead put all proposed tax increase votes on the November ballot. Making this policy change would reduce the special interest gaming of the current special election system).
This seems to be Thurston County’s staff approach to decision making

Which gets to the most disturbing aspect of this proposed tax increase. The tax increase itself legally has nothing to do with building anything at all. While it is being sold as a funding mechanism for some undefined courthouse project (nobody yet knows the true cost – $250 million? $300 million?), the actual legal language of the tax increase doesn’t require Thurston County to build anything with these funds. At first staff contested this fact, but when confronted by citizen Jon Petit with the actual language of the very proposal staff was pushing on the county commissioners, Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez was forced to admit Mr. Petit was correct. There is no obligation that Thurston County build anything. The only legal guarantee is if the voters are suckered into approving this scheme, they will be paying much higher property taxes.
Thurston County staff want to increase the burden on local taxpayers

Another policy impact of this tax proposal, if passed by the voters, is the fact that General Obligation Bonds take funds from the general budget of Thurston County. While this tax proposal is an increase of 39.5% over the existing rate of general obligation funds, it also means that if the staff of Thurston County start down the project path to build this building and they go over budget (a common occurrence in Thurston County), those increased tax dollars will be extracted and diverted from services like the sheriff’s office. It is a near certainty that taxpayers in Thurston County would be blackmailed into even higher tax increases in the near future to pay for the mistakes and the predictable budget fiasco of this undefined “new courthouse” project.
City of Olympia Mayor Cheryl Shelby (D)

Finally, most disturbingly, based on the testimony of the Mayor of Olympia, Cheryl Shelby at the April 23rd public hearing, some type of “partnership” arrangement has been hatched for the undefined courthouse boondoggle (and the taxpayers already have paid $200,000 for this “partnership” according to minutes from the August 14, 2018 commissioner meeting minutes (linked here see item 5a. Note Item 5b was the $300,000 cost of this draft feasibility report linked here) This is terrifying to anyone who has bothered to pay attention to local government in Thurston County. The only Thurston County local government with a worse track record and has demonstrated even more incompetence in building projects and financial mismanagement than Thurston County itself is the City of Olympia. Their bloated, overbudget City Hall (true cost of $52 million) was just the most glaring example, but they also like to give away multi-million dollar buildings for free (to organizations where councilmember spouses work), spend $350,000 on one-stall restrooms, and generally waste taxpayer funds on homeless camps and other fiascos.
The City of Olympia’s investment in Homeless Drug Addict Camps has helped add local flavor to the downtown city experience near the proposed courthouse location

Conveniently, the theoretical location of this “new courthouse” in downtown Olympia will also help the City of Olympia attempt to escape the consequences of their impactful planning policies which have managed to chase businesses away from downtown as fast as business leases expire. Local political “leaders” believe this Thurston County courthouse project might help mask the urban decay and postpone any local political reckoning for the failures of the past and current Olympia City Council. Thurston County voters have every reason to be concerned. In the recent survey – Thurston County voters were almost five times more concerned about the proposed courthouse costs and taxes than they were about any other issue related to this proposed scheme.
Thurston County – A history of building fiascos
Thurston County legal counsel Elizabeth Petrich at the hearing April 30, 2019. Her legal advice has helped Thurston County lose many lawsuits including the record setting $12 million jury verdict against Thurston County in the Maytown case.

Thurston County has a long and colorful history of incompetence, failure, and waste when it comes to building government facilities of any kind. Some have attributed these repeated failures to the planning department, which is often plagued with scandal and questionable leadership. A general government staff infection seems to exist in Thurston County upper management. Some of these failures have also been due to poor political leadership which has afflicted the county on a frequent basis over the years. Another theory involves concerns over the undue influence of special interests who always profit from these decisions like the architecture company and other vendors who stand to profit greatly from the mistakes of Thurston County staff. These special interests also appear to have great influence over the decision making at the staff level and tend to control and direct staff to do their bidding. Conveniently, this bidding always results in hefty sums of taxpayer cash which always end up with these special interests. Regardless of the theory, the result has often been the same –

Let’s look at just a few of the more recent examples:
Former Thurston County Commisioners Romero, Wolfe and Valenzula deserve to be recognized for all they achieved.
Don Krupp, former Thurston County Manager (now county manager in Clackamas County, Oregon)

Thurston County’s jail fiasco made state-wide news for half a decade as the brand new $61 million jail that was rejected by the voters, built by Commissioners Romero, Valenzuela, and Wolfe anyway (under the direction of former Thurston County Manager Don Krupp), and then sat empty for five years because nobody bothered to plan a budget to operate the facility. We’ve written about this fiasco over the years (see here, here, and here). Like most failures of Thurston County “planning,” this one began as an effort to circumvent the voters. A failed effort to build a $102 million jail/justice center was soundly rejected by Thurston County voters in 2004 (see election results here – 61% opposed). An effort to impose a different excise tax was also rejected later. As is frequently the case, Thurston County planning staff was certain they knew best and they colluded with the old Commission, put the debt on future generations by taking out more general obligation bonds without a vote of the people and then built the jail anyway.
While it was empty 5 years, it is finally being used.

Of course, they didn’t call it a “jail,” but instead used the Orwellian term “Accountability and Restitution Center” or “ARC” for short. Once the jail was completed, it sat empty for five years, costing the county $250,000 or more in annual maintenance costs while the county struggled to find some money to run the facility. It wasn’t until the failed Democrat incumbents Valenzuela, Romero and Wolfe were replaced by Independent Commissioners Blake, Edwards, and Hutchings that the empty jail was finally put to use.
3400 building in Thurston County – Thurston County spent $8 million and 18 years to reduce the value of this empty building from $4 million to $2 million

Another classic example of Thurston County’s planning incompetence was the sad saga of the 3400 building (read more written at the time here). This embarrassment existed for many years as another monument to local government incompetence and failure in Thurston County. Originally a commercial fish cannery purchased by Thurston County in 1998 for $3.4 million with the expectation it could be turned into a jail. Those expectations were dashed by reality (nobody at the time bothered to verify whether it could be converted to this use), and Thurston County gradually squandered over $8 million on this empty building. After 18 years during which time the 3400 building sat mostly unused and empty, the brilliant staff of Thurston County found ways to destroy the value even further by giving away the parking lot for a homeless camp project called Camp Quixote, and then finally dumping the failed money pit for a fraction of the purchase cost 18 years earlier.
The last time the Thurston County Courthouse was located in downtown Olympia, it was in this building which was vacated by Thurston County in 1978. (Wikipedia Commons)
Thurston County always seems to need a new courthouse.
Thurston County Treasurer Jeff Gadman bragged at the public hearing on April 23, 2019 about how much the current courthouse facility has been allowed to degrade with staff’s lack of maintenance.

The current Thurston County Courthouse was built in 1978. A casual review of newspaper articles from that era along with a review of archives demonstrates that the promises made to taxpayers back then remain identical to the promises made today for the “new” courthouse in downtown Olympia. The Thurston County Commissioners and planning staff in the 1970s promised that the new courthouse would be energy efficient, have plenty of parking, be sustainable long term, and have the ability and room to expand to accommodate future needs. Staff promised to maintain the facility. Many of those promises went unfilled – particularly the parking plans and building maintenance. However, the need to escape the problems of downtown Olympia like traffic, parking, and other related issues were real to the citizens of the community at the time.

In my next article on this subject, I plan to discuss better alternatives than this proposed fiasco. The biased process used to get this pre-determined outcome also merits more attention. Additionally, the special interests pushing this boondoggle for their own selfish ends, regardless of the harm inflicted on the community should be closely examined and studied.

Based on a 1975 Environmental Impact Statement, which this author found in the state archives, the Thurston County Commissioners at that time were defensive about the public criticism of the high costs for “marble palaces” and they were moving forward with the project regardless. It is worth noting, every Thurston County Commissioner who voted for the proposed courthouse project at the time were removed from office by the voters at the next election. History has a tendency to repeat itself and both Commissioner Tye “the big tax guy” Menser, and Commissioner Hutchings should take note.

Unfortunately, if this massive tax increase is approved, nobody will remember today’s politicians who hurt us, but the taxpayers, including tens of thousands yet unborn will still be paying for it.

Northwest MLS Housing Report for April signals good news for home buyers

KIRKLAND, Washington (May 6, 2019) –

Housing activity during April signaled good news for buyers
in Western Washington as inventory continued to grow, the rate of price increases was slowing in many
areas (and even decreasing in a few counties), and mortgage rates remained low.


Northwest Multiple Listing Service statistics for last month show a 28.5 percent overall increase in active
listings compared to the same month a year ago, a 5.8 percent gain in pending sales, and a 2.4 percent rise
in median prices for sales of single family homes and condos that closed during April. The volume of
closings dipped slightly (down 1.9 percent).


“Listings were popping up like April flowers and the bloom has produced a vibrant and healthy market,”
exclaimed MLS director John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain. “With an
increased supply of listing inventory, low interest rates, and a positive economic climate, buyers are
confident that this is a good time to buy,” he reported, while noting a larger number of buyers are opting
out of competing with other buyers.


“This year’s buyers and sellers are approaching the market with more caution and a focus on an
analytical, versus emotional approach that has ruled the last several years,” Deely said.


Northwest MLS members added 11,697 new listings to inventory during April for a year-over-year gain
of nearly 3.8 percent. During the same period, brokers reported 11,188 pending sales (509 fewer than the
number of new listings), resulting in net gains in the number of active listings in many counties, but
changes in inventory were wide ranging across the 23 counties the MLS serves.


Seven counties had double-digit growth in inventory from a year ago, led by King County (up 78.5
percent) and Snohomish County (up nearly 57 percent). The number of active listings declined in 10
counties, with Jefferson County reporting the biggest drop at 24.8 percent. System-wide inventory at the
end of April totaled 12,955 active listings, which represents a 7.8 gain from March.


“The spring market has arrived, bringing new listings and sales,” stated Dean Rebhuhn, owner of Village
Homes and Properties in Woodinville. Sellers who have prepared their homes for sale are experiencing
brisk activity, and buyers are finding more opportunities to purchase, thanks to low mortgage rates and
increased inventory, according to Rebhuhn.


“As we head into the prime buying and selling season, we’re seeing better news for buyers in King
County, with statistics showing there’s a bit more time to look and make a decision,” said Mike Grady,
president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain. Pointing to the 78 percent increase in total active listings in
King County and the 57 percent jump in inventory in Snohomish County, he described the year-over-year
gains as “impressive,” but noted there is still less than two months of inventory in many areas. “Buyers
now have three-to-four weeks instead of three-to-four days to make a decision, so it’s still quite a ways
from a balanced market,” he emphasized.

It’s Still Smart to Bet on Housing

Source: Dr. Steve Sjuggerud

We are in the late stages of a massive wealth-creation event. When it’s over, we likely won’t see another opportunity like it for decades.

If you invested in housing in the last few years, you’ve likely made incredible gains… whether you bought a house or invested in real estate stocks.

Today, many investors are worried that the bull market is over… They’re worried that the massive gains we’ve seen in the housing market are behind us.

I hear this all the time…

“Steve, home sales fell hard in 2018. Houses aren’t as cheap as they were five years ago, either. Doesn’t that scare you?”

The concerns are understandable. But these ideas miss the bigger point.

Yes, home sales had a rough year last year. And yes, home prices have moved higher in recent years. But when you look under the hood, the housing market is actually healthier than you think.

It’s still smart to bet on housing now.

Let me explain…

First, let me be very clear… I’m not calling for another decade of booming housing prices.

Today’s opportunity isn’t the generational one we saw back in 2011. But there are a couple reasons why we should expect housing to do well over the next couple of years.

The first is that housing is a better deal than a lot of folks believe. That’s normal after a decadelong boom. But thanks to the recent decline in mortgage rates, housing isn’t out of reach for most.

Just a few months ago, 30-year mortgage rates were nearing 5%. Now, these rates are down to 4%. Take a look…

Falling mortgage rates tell us it’s getting cheaper to take out a home loan. That’s great for folks who are looking to buy in today’s market – and it should continue to drive demand.

On top of that, supply in the housing market is still extremely low… Homebuilders can’t keep up with demand.

You can see this by looking at existing home supply. It’s based on how many months it takes to sell the entire supply of existing homes on the market, according to current sales rates. Check it out…

The housing market is extremely tight. The number of existing homes on the market is historically low today.

That creates an interesting scenario…

With mortgage rates falling, housing has recently become more affordable. That should increase demand, bringing new buyers into the market. But they’ll be coming into a market with incredibly low supply.

New demand with limited supply… That’s a recipe for higher prices.

This isn’t what the average person would expect, of course. But it’s the reality of what’s going on in the housing market right now.

U.S. housing is much healthier than most people believe. And I expect the boom to continue in the coming years.

Good investing,

Steve

Housing market rebounds from February freeze

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (April 5, 2019) – Both pending sales and new listing activity around Western
Washington surged during March as buyers, sellers, and brokers emerged from February’s record
snowfall.

Brokers added 10,516 new listings of single family homes and condos to the Northwest Multiple Listing
Service inventory last month, the highest monthly volume since August 2018. Compared to the same
month a year ago, new listings across the 23 counties in the report were down slightly (79 fewer units).
MLS members also reported 10,261 pending sales during the same timeframe, the highest number of
mutually accepted offers since July, and nearly matching the year-ago total of 10,311.

“After the housing adjustment in 2018, this year’s spring market is back to frenzied in the more affordable
and mid-price ranges,” remarked J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. Noting
March is the start of the prime-time selling season, he expects this year “will be no exception.” He also
commented on improved affordability from last fall’s price adjustments in the close-in job centers of
Seattle and the Eastside. “This improved affordability, along with lower interest rates and very strong job
growth, all point us in the right direction for red-hot acceleration again this year,” Scott stated.

Year-over-year prices area-wide were up 3.5 percent, rising from $401,761 to $415,950, with most
counties reporting gains. King County was an exception. Prices there were flat (down 0.4 percent),
slipping from the year-ago median of $625,000 to last month’s figure of $622,500, but rising from
February’s price of $604,000.

Compared to February, prices rose 2.2 percent system-wide. The four-county Puget Sound region had
larger month-to-month increases, led by Kitsap County, up 5.9 percent from February. Prices in
Snohomish County jumped nearly 5.5 percent, while King County’s median prices rose more than 3
percent when comparing February to March.

Commenting on the uptick in new listings and new sales, broker Dean Rebhuhn pointed to lower
mortgage interest rates and a growing selection of properties as drivers of activity. “Well-priced
properties are selling. Buyers who are getting fully underwritten loan commitments are winning the prize
– the home,” stated Rebhuhn, the owner of Village Homes and Properties in Woodinville.

At month end, there were 12,017 active listings of single family homes and condos in the Northwest MLS
database. That represents an increase of more than 36 percent from a year ago when there were only 8,825
active listings. Inventory more than doubled in King County compared to a year ago, rising from 2,060
active listings to 4,263 at the end of March. Nine counties reported less inventory than 12 months ago.

Even with improving inventory, there is less than two months of supply overall and in seven counties,
including Pierce (1.2 months), Snohomish (1.3 months), Kitsap (1.4 months) and King (nearly 1.9
months).

How You Can Navigate the Property Market to Find an Accessible Home

Source: Natalie Jones

Buying a home should be an adventure, not a nightmare. Still,
it can be daunting process nonetheless, especially when you’re
looking for something accessible. Thankfully, there are plenty
of ways to help you find the house you need.

Know What You Need

You know better than anyone about what you require from an
accessible home. Check the doorways in every room to make sure
they are wide enough, and remember that hallways need to offer
enough space to be easily navigable. Things like door handles
and faucets can be switched out, but it is nice if they are
already in lever form.

You also want to look for any possible
repair issues. Make sure the floors, especially near the
bathroom, are even, as warping indicates water damage. Plus,
you want an even surface to prevent falls.

Further, there should be no cracks in the walls, as this can mean the home is
poorly constructed. The most important thing, though, is to be
sure you can move through the home comfortably.

Research the Area

Once you have a list of items you need, you can begin to
research a neighborhood. When you buy a home, you are also
getting the surrounding area. If you can go visit in person,
speak to potential neighbors. Ask what they love about the area
but also what needs to be improved.

Examine the paths around
the home, and see if the sidewalk is in good repair. Lastly,
you want to be certain that crime levels for the neighborhood
are low so you can feel safe in your home.

Look at the Community

Just like with the neighborhood, you want to be confident that
the town itself fits your needs. Similarly, look at the
sidewalks throughout the town. Are they even and well-
maintained?

The aisles in shops should be wide enough for you
to easily get through. As well, consider the landscape. You may
not want to live in an area that has rolling hills or steep
inclines.

Is there a hospital close by? Do you need to be near
a school? What about proximity to work? Is there a local
organization that provides help or information to disabled
individuals? If so, they may have insights into the community.
These things impact whether you should make a bid on a home.

Use Your Resources

Finding the house itself can seem daunting. Thankfully, you
have a few options at your disposal. The first is to deal
directly with a realtor. You can give them a full list of your
needs, and they can work with you to give you options.

Additionally, there are websites you can use to expand your
investigation. While many sites have search functions to narrow
down your hunt, there are other pages dedicated to accessible
housing.

You don’t need to feel like you are at a dead end;
these websites deal only with houses that can work for you.

Prepare for the Move Itself

Some exhausting aspects of moving itself are organizing,
packing, and then hauling your goods to a new home. Save
yourself some stress by hiring professional packers. They are
trained in the art of wrapping and packing, and can protect
your things. It will save you time, both from the packing
itself, but also with shopping for supplies.

Just be certain that you do your research and compare companies.

Most importantly, get accurate quotes before you make a decision.
Depending on how far you are moving, you may want to read up on
different companies. A mover can make things easier, but
confirm that they are reputable and fully licensed.

Don’t let the stress overwhelm you. Get the help you need, and
further your chances at success with thorough research. You can
find the home perfect for you and your family.

Homebuyers Resuming Search Amid Improving Inventory, Attractive Terms

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (February 7, 2019) – Homebuyers around Washington state are making their
way back to the market, hoping to take advantage of improving inventory, attractive interest rates, and
more approachable sellers, according to officials with Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Northwest MLS statistics for January show year-over-year improvement in the volume of new listings
and total inventory, along with moderating selling prices. Although fewer pending sales (mutually
accepted offers) were reported than a year ago (down about 3.3 percent), January was the smallest year-
over-year decline since May 2018 when the drop was about 2.7 percent.

Commenting on the MLS statistics summarizing last month’s activity, broker Gary O’Leyar said
January’s post-holiday real estate activity doesn’t normally pick up until later in the month, but this year
the uptick began early. “January started as a bit of a surprise. Open house activity was very robust, and we
saw multiple offers in numerous instances again,” reported O’Leyar, the owner of Berkshire Hathaway
HomeServices Signature Properties in Seattle.

Brokers tallied 7,564 pending sales during January, a decline from a year-ago when they recorded 7,820
transactions.

Seven counties had increases in pending sales of single family homes and condos compared with 12
months ago, including King (up nearly 7.5 percent) and Snohomish (up 3.8 percent).

James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of
Washington, commented on pending sales. The mixed results, including “healthy growth” in King and
Snohomish counties, “corresponds well to upward movement in mortgage applications late in December,
a leading indicator for the month to follow,” he noted, adding, “One should expect to see increased sales
activity in the coming months throughout the region if mortgage applications continue to stabilize or
increase.”

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, said buyers “came out of the
woodwork” after the holidays, eager to take advantage of better housing conditions. “Areas close to the
job centers are seeing improved affordability from spring 2018,” he said, attributing it to lower interest
rates, strong job growth, and adjusted pricing.

Scott said buyers are also attracted by expanded inventory resulting from the addition of new listings and
a higher number of unsold inventory, although he noted “inventory levels are still considered a shortage.”
Prospective buyers who sat out the second half of 2018 or were pushed to the sidelines during last year’s
heated market are finding better buying conditions, agreed Robb Wasser, branch manager at Windermere
Real Estate/East. “Interest rates are near a nine month low and buyers have a stronger platform for
negotiating, which have helped drive a 9 percent increase in pending sales of single family homes in King
County,” Wasser stated.

Attentive Home Buyers Can Find “Good Values and Receptive Sellers”

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (January 7, 2019) – December brought few surprises for real estate brokers in
Western Washington with holidays, fluctuating interest rates, and volatility in consumer confidence
contributing to slower activity. Several leaders from Northwest Multiple Listing Service described 2018
as a transition year for residential real estate.

New data from the MLS show inventory in its 23-county market area dipped below two months of supply
for the first time since July. A year-over-year comparison of the number of new listings, pending sales,
and closed sales show drops overall, while prices rose from the same month a year ago.

Member-brokers added 3,631 new listings of single family homes and condominiums during December
(10.4 percent fewer than a year ago), boosting total active listings to 12,275, up from the year-ago volume
of 8,553. Pending sales were down about 8.4 percent from twelve months ago (5,677 versus 6,198), and
the volume of closed sales dropped nearly 16.6 percent (6,374 versus 7,642).

For 2018, members of Northwest MLS reported completing 92,555 transactions, which compares with
99,345 closed sales during 2017 for a drop of about 6.8 percent. The median price on last year’s closed
sales of single family homes and condominiums combined was $402,000, up $32,000 (8.64 percent) from
2017.

Commenting on inventory, declines in closed sales and the drop in month’s supply, MLS director Dick
Beeson said, “There’s lots of speculation as to the reasons why. One thing for sure: this situation can
make for a deliciously deceptive market for either buyers or sellers.” The veteran Realtor said buyers who
are paying attention will find very good values and receptive sellers.

“Timing the interest rate market is beyond the capability of most everyone. Therefore, buyers should act
now, act deliberately, act decisively, and act in conjunction with an experienced real estate professional,”
advised Beeson, the principal managing broker at RE/MAX Northwest in Gig Harbor.
Brokers said many of last month’s buyers took advantage of the shifting market.

“Buyers in December were reaping the benefits of market-weary sellers who were willing to give up part
of their bloated home equity to make a deal and move on,” reported John Deely, principal managing
broker at Coldwell Banker Bain.

James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of
Washington, noted last month was a very different December from a year ago. “While active listings are
up significantly (43.5 percent) from a year ago, interest rates have also gone up by over 80 basis points,
meaning the typical mortgage repayment has increased by about 10 percent for those looking to buy. That
limits spending power and stops buyers from bidding up for the house they want rather than the house
they can afford.”

Organization & Decluttering Tips for the New Year

 

Source: Mark Friedrich, Penrith Home Loans

Organization and Decluttering Tips for the New Year

When you stop to look around your home after the holidays, does it seem as though you’ll never find a place for all the new toys and gadgets? Or perhaps your home is just long overdue for some reorganizing. Fear not! With some simple tips for decluttering and rearranging, you’ll set the tone for the whole year and keep your belongings exactly where they should be.

Declutter First

You’ll need to clear out the clutter before you can move on to getting organized. Let’s start here:
Icon Sort your belongings into Keep, Donate, and Toss piles, which will start the ball rolling as you begin your home’s transformation.
Icon If you got a new one for a holiday gift, get rid of the old one. Clothing with stains or holes should be replaced with updated versions. Sort through your bookshelves to make room for new books, plus, your local library or school will be grateful for a donation.
Icon Be sure to deal with your Toss and Donate piles on the same day you made them — if you leave piles sitting around, it might feel even more cluttered than before you started!
Icon Don’t overwhelm yourself, however: this is not a one-day job. Be realistic about what you can get done. Break it up by room or by area. Living and dining room one day, kitchen and laundry room the next, and then on to the bedrooms.

Organize Next

A place for everything, and everything in its place. That’s important to remember as you move on to organizing: If you can’t find or make a home for it, then it doesn’t belong in your home.

Boxes, baskets, jars, shelves; plastic, wicker, wire, glass: There are so many options for neatening your possessions and ensuring they’re readily accessible. Whatever you choose, here are some basics for keeping them organized and functional:

Icon Put like with like. This seems like a no-brainer, until you realize you have 12 tubes of toothpaste.
Icon Favorites up front. Things you use the most need to be the easiest to get to.
Icon Label everything. If you’re not using clear containers, this is an especially crucial step, but even if you are, you can’t go wrong by labeling them. That way no one in your home will have an excuse for not putting things where they belong.
Icon Break down storage spaces into even smaller units. Drawer dividers separate socks from underwear; under-sink shelves allow you to see how much toilet paper you have left and your cleaning supplies; a table or shelf in your entryway with (labeled!) baskets and bowls will ensure keys, purses, backpacks, and mail can all be found quickly and easily.

If at first you don't succeed, use a hack.

Well, some of these aren’t really hacks, but they are ways to maximize your storage, minimize your clutter, and help you get more organized so you can tackle other projects in your life (like decluttering your desk, or getting the kids to pick up after themselves …).
Icon Look up — and down. Under the bed, over the door, on the side of a cabinet, on the landing: These are all places where a box, hook, shelf, or storage unit can be stashed.
Icon Store neatly. If you have an attic, basement, or garage, be sure you’re (neatly!) storing items there that you use infrequently but need to keep, such as holiday decorations or party supplies.
Icon Think vertically. Cookie sheets don’t have to lie flat. Shelving doesn’t have to stop at eye level. Repurpose a hanging shoe organizer for seasonal clothes like sweaters and tank tops. Or an over-the-door organizer for toiletries, freeing up your linen closet shelves for … you got it! Linens!
Icon Repurpose. A magazine holder full of pot lids. A spice rack full of beauty supplies. An old dresser drawer with wheels attached slipped under the bed. When you think creatively, you can switch storage meant for one item to a completely different purpose.

Pro Tips: Roll towels to take up less space in the cabinet and make an attractive display. Pack all the parts of a bedding set inside one of the pillowcases.

For Special Consideration: Your Home Office

If you maintain an office in your home, these tips can help you keep that area organized as well:

  • Go paperless whenever possible.
  • Color code your files.
  • Label the wires leading from your computer, printer, speakers, etc.
  • Clear your desk of office supplies. Store them all in drawers or in a storage system similar to what you’ve just done in the rest of your home.
  • Set up a bulletin board that holds the day’s priorities.
  • Set aside 10 minutes at the end of the day to reorganize and prep for the next day.

Your productivity will go up as your stacks of clutter go down!

Of course, the most important part of this whole process is to stick to it. If you get it out, put it back. If you open it, close it. If it’s dirty, wash it. If it’s damaged, fix it. If you don’t use it, get rid of it. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”

Whether you’re ready to move or update your current space, I can help you find the home financing to turn your dream house into your actual home. Contact me today to get started!
Mark Friedrich Photo Mark Friedrich
NMLS ID 1266389
Penrith Home Loans/M2
9502 19th Avenue SE, Suite A
Seattle, WA 98208
425-357-9390
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This letter is for information purposes only and is not an advertisement to extend customer credit as defined by Section 12 CFR 1026.2 Regulation Z. Program rates, terms and conditions are subject to change at any time.

Mark Friedrich, NMLS ID 1266389
Penrith Home Loans/M2 WA-CL 713524, OR-ML 5271
9502 19th Avenue SE, Suite A Seattle, WA 98208

 

How To Age In Place Safely In Your Home

 

Source: Michael Longsdon

Every year, about half of all Americans over 65 suffer a fall. These can be harmless, but they can also cause lasting injuries and even death. As you grow older, it is important to take proactive steps to prevent accidents by making changes to your environment that minimize the risk of falling and enhance your ability to age in place.

Falling risks increased in certain areas

More than half of all senior falling injuries occur inside the home. The bathroom, kitchen, hallway, stairs, and bedroom pose the most risk for a multitude of reasons.

Bathroom and kitchen

According to the AARP, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house for seniors. The kitchen is a close second. This is because water and soap make surfaces slippery, getting in and out of a shower or bath also involves balance, which can tend to deteriorate with age.

The vast majority of injuries in the bathroom could be avoided with the installation of grab bars next to all showers, baths and toilets. You should also place a non-slip rubber mat on the surface or your bath or shower to avoid slipping accidents and always use a bath mat to absorb excess water on the floor. Kitchens should likewise be outfitted with non-slip mats at the sink and fridge, where spills are most likely to occur.

Hallways and stairs

While individual rooms in the house tend to be well-lit, hallways and stairwells can sometimes be neglected as they are rarely used during the night. This means that an older person who, say, needs to use the toilet in the middle of the night, will not be able to see where they are going and are likely to slip and fall.

You should also clear hallways of any potential tripping hazards. This includes carpets and throw rugs, which are one of the most common causes of indoor falls. At the very least, buy some non-slip rug pads, which adhere to the bottom of your rugs to keep it from curling upward and tripping someone over. Stairs may be made safer by installing a gate at the top and increasing the amount of ambient lighting available. Reflective stips may also add to visibility.

Bedroom

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for a variety of reasons including your general physical and mental health, but it can also reduce the risk of falls. You are more likely to injure yourself if you are tired throughout the day and are not paying attention to where you step. Additional falling risks in the bedroom stem from standing up too soon or rising from an unstable surface, such as a sagging mattress.

Many people assume that older people need less sleep, but this is simply untrue. While changes in sleep architecture are normal as we age, sleep deprivation is not. Senior sleep needs are the same as that of a middle-aged adult, but the difference is that they might have a harder time getting the recommended number of hours. If you are not sleeping well, you need to figure out why and tackle the problem right away. Start by ensuring your mattress allows for quality, restful sleep. Mattresses for seniors need to maintain neutral spine alignment and have enough contouring to relieve pressure points. Refer to this guide to learn more about how to choose the best mattress for your specific needs.

Exercise

Start making small changes to your lifestyle as well. For instance, improving your strength and balance through exercise – yoga is a great option – will also greatly help you avoid injury. A combination of environmental and lifestyle changes is the best guarantee for a safe and comfortable old age and it is never too soon to get started.

These small changes will help you age in place by decreasing your risk of injury and increasing your ability to live independently.